Every new college basketball season brings a plethora of new faces to each team’s bench. For the USC Trojans this year, however, the main newcomer might be the familiar figure at the head of the bench.
Following an eight-year absence, coach Mark Trakh will once again grace the sidelines of the Galen Center, as he was re-hired as head coach last spring. He takes the reins of a team that went 14-16 (5-13) in 2016-17 – a campaign that also resulted in the resignation of coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke after a four-year stay.
Trakh, who commented when he was hired that he “got his dream job twice,” said he was left with a solid roster.
“Getting the job, I knew we inherited a talented group of young women,” Trakh said. “I’m excited about the energy and passion they show every day in practice, and I think we’ve got some good parts. We’ve been emphasizing culture as far as them working hard, working together, and learning to trust each other, and I think they’re really buying in.”
During Trakh’s previous stint at USC, from 2005-2009, he posted a record of 90-64, which includes two trips to the NCAA tournament.
This year the Women of Troy look to better their record, which will be challenging following the graduation of Courtney Jaco. The guard was USC’s third-leading scorer last year, averaging 10.6 points per game en route to becoming the program’s No. 2 all-time leading three-point shooter.
Filling her shoes will be easier because the NCAA granted guard Jordan Adams a medical hardship waiver last month, allowing her to return for a sixth season. The Orange County guard, already embattled by injuries during her college career, was off to a great start last year. But at the Great Alaska Shootout Nov. 23, she tore her ACL.
Adams’ impact on the team comes both on and off the court.
Last February, teammate Kristen Simon took the Trojan’s home floor wearing her friend’s No. 1 jersey to honor her on senior day, since she couldn’t play.
“Being able to give something to Jordan personally – she’s a great person and I love her to death,” Simon said at the time. “She does everything for us. It was to give her confidence because she’s been through a rough couple of years.”
Adams, along with seniors Simon and Sadie Edwards will now be tasked with taking the team’s flashes of brilliance from a season ago and turning them into sustained success.
Among those moments was a 65-50 upset win over Arizona State, highlighted by a Minyon Moore four-point play.
Moore was the team’s second-leading scorer last year as a freshman, averaging 11.7 points per game – a resume that led to an invitation to USA Basketball’s U19 World Cup Team Trials last May.
Simon averaged 14.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, and brings a formidable paint presence – as well as much-needed leadership – to the team.
Other key returners are sophomore forwards Ja’Tavia Tapley, Asiah Jones and Dani Milisic; junior forward Marguerite Effa, and junior guard Aliyah Mazyck.
With the season set to begin Friday, the only glaring question that remains for the Women of Troy will be how long it takes for them to get acclimated to Trakh’s system. With two NCAA tournament appearances on his resume, only time will tell if the returning coach can lead the Trojans back to the top of the Pac-12.